|Bodenheimer, Rosemarie. The Politics of Story
in Victorian Social Fiction (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988):
Bodenheimer declares that the chaotic nature of Alton Locke is
due to the novel's original composition. It was written during 1849
and 1850 in “unchronological fragments” (135). Kingsley displays
an acute ambivalence throughout the work. His middle class sensibility
fired by class sympathy results in “something like pathology” (137).
“Alton Locke oscillates wildly between its commitment to the circumstances
of working-class life and its yearning for a pastoral world, until it finally
collapses into a dream vision that resolves the conflict by changing the
meanings of its original terms. In the process Kingsley inadvertently
deconstructs the ideological opposition between social conflict and pastoral
harmony, producing versions of pastoral that reveal on the one hand its
reliance on aristocratic society and on the other its evolutionary connection
with human drives to lust and power” (135).
and Political Views;
Cripps, Elizabeth A. "Introduction," Alton Locke,
Tailor and Poet: An Autobiography (Oxford; New York: Oxford University
Press, 1983): vii-xx.
Cripps introduces Alton Locke by considering the context of
the troubled Chartist times in which it was both written and set.
She also briefly discusses the novel's publication history, its reception
by the critics, and its representation of many of Kingsley's social and
political views. She regrets on literary grounds that Kingsley revised
the Cambridge part of the novel. Praising for the most part the characterization
in the novel, Cripps also lauds its graphic depictions.
and Political Novel; Social
and Political Views;
Graziano, Anne. “The Death of the Working-Class
Hero in Mary Barton and Alton Locke,” JNT: Journal of
Narrative Theory Vol. 29, No. 2 (Spring 1999): 135-57.
Graziano discusses the status and especially the death of John Barton
and Alton Locke in the novels of Gaskell and Kingsley. On the one
hand, it may appear that the authors’ aversion to extreme working class
radicalism have led them to kill off their heroes out of sympathy to higher
class loyalties. However, Graziano argues that a close examination
of the structure of the novel reveals a more complicated reason for the
demise of Barton and Locke than the authors’ political conservatism.
“. . . it is not a turn away from a positive representational status
so much as a development of early implications and contradictions
that accounts for the heroes’ ‘fall’” (136-7). The heroes’ failure
and deaths “are enacted through the constraining opportunities and
conventions of the genre. And thus the politics of the moment cannot
adequately explain why Gaskell and Kingsley begin with potentially viable
heroes and end with corpses” (151).
in Novels; Social and Political
Hodgson, Amanda. "Defining the Species: Apes,
Savages and Humans in Scientific and Literary Writing of the 1860s," Journal
of Victorian Culture Vol. 4, No. 2 (Autumn 1999): 228-251.
Hodgson examines The Water-Babies, and particularly the characterization
of Tom, in the context of the contemporary desire to distinguish humans
from animals, especially apes, and the complementary efforts to define
the distinctions between white civilized Europeans and "savages".
Her principal aim is to examine the relationship of this children's story
to contemporary scientific theories on the nature of species as well as
to compare the novel to Browning's 'Caliban upon Setebos'.
Howells, W. D. “Charles Kingsley’s Hypatia,”
in Heroines of Fiction Vol. II (New York and London: Harper &
Brothers, 1901): 1-13.
Howells examines the novel Hypatia and concludes that it was
not an artistic success. Though capable of writing a greater work
about fifth century Alexandria, Kingsley failed in his attempt mainly due
to the weak representation of Hypatia herself, an unattractive and “rather
repellent” character (6). Howells considers Kingsley’s novel to be
on a far higher plane than Bulwer Lytton’s The Last Days of Pompeii,
yet falls below it in artistic effect. While Bulwer was at least
a melodramatist, “Kingsley was no dramatist at all, but an exalted moralist
willing to borrow the theatre for the ends of the church. If we realize
this we shall understand why his figures seem to have come out of the property-room
by way of the vestry” (8). Howells praises Alton Locke for
its potent protest against aspects of society’s injustices, yet criticizes
it on artistic grounds as being excessively polemical.
in Novels; Reception of Kingsley's Works;
Karl, Frederick R. An Age of Fiction: The
Nineteenth Century British Novel (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux,
In his treatment of Alton Locke Karl focuses on Kingsley’s social
and political views. Locke comes to believe that the Chartist goals,
and all political and social aims, can only be realized if linked to Christianity,
a belief earnestly held by Kingsley. However, Karl declares that
Kingsley’s argument turns into the “hollow rhetoric” of those who, fearing
radical change, advise prudence (335). The working classes must wait
until others decide it is time for their equality; they must not decide
for themselves. Because of what he considers the weakness of this
thesis, Karl believes that Alton Locke has a “flabby intellectual
spine”. While the novel is praised for some excellent scenes, the
characters when they think or act appear “platitudinous or intellectually
shallow”. Karl’s conclusion is that Kingsley, despite his compassion
for the poor, “has not worn well, but less for the old-fashioned nature
of his narrative than for the intellectual assumptions behind the novel”
and Political Views;
Melville, Lewis. “The Centenary of Charles Kingsley,”
Review Vol. 115 (June 1919): 670-674.
Melville’s appreciation of Kingsley’s life and works contains little
that he did not write in his 1906 Victorian Novelists. However,
he is more certain this time that Westward Ho! is Kingsley’s best
work. “The deeds of derring–do in the South Seas and on the Spanish
Main, and the story of the defeat of the great Armada are admirably told,
and are comparable with similar episodes in the best works of any other
author. There Kingsley is at his best, and his best is very good
in Novels; Westward Ho!.
Melville, Lewis. "Charles Kingsley," in his Victorian
Novelists (London: Archibald Constable, 1906): 106-124.
Melville reviews Kingsley’s life and works. He praises some of
Kingsley’s shorter poems though considering that his poetry in general
is not up to the standard of his romances. Yeast is more a
pamphlet than a novel and is spoiled by Kingsley’s dissertations on his
own views. Though the story of Alton Locke is slight, the
novel’s characterization is superior to that of Yeast. Melville
praises Hypatia for its “brilliant and forcible picture of life”,
for its fine characterization, and its good planning. It is, however,
“sometimes stagey, and often melodramatic, and not infrequently grandiloquent”
(114, 118). Westward Ho! is Kingsley’s most successful novel
though it does not quite reach the level of Hypatia. Melville
singles out Kingsley’s command of language and his scene-painting.
“. . . it is this power of description that distinguishes him above his
contemporaries, with the exception, perhaps of Disraeli; indeed, places
him in this respect above all writers since Scott, and even Scott’s landscape
does not always seem so spontaneous” (124).
Muller, Charles H. “Westward Ho! -- Sermon
in the Guise of Adventure,” UNISA English Studies Vol. 23,
No. 1 (1985): 15-20.
Muller argues that Kingsley’s primary purpose in Westward Ho! was
a moral one, the reinforcement of English Protestant values. The adventure
story was clearly secondary to the delineation of the characters’ virtues
and sins. In addition to Kingsley’s own sermonizing commentary, the
characters epitomize Christian and moral purpose. For example, Eustace
personifies moral failure, Amyas typifies perfect Christian ideals.
Such themes as self-rule, personal or self sacrifice, and divine providence
pervade the novel. Muller also stresses the important virtuous and
moral qualities as depicted in the novel’s women characters, Amyas’s mother,
Mrs Leigh, Rose Salterne, Ayacanora. Kingsley’s message, according
to Muller, “to all his masculine readers is, to value the spiritualising
love of woman; and to his women readers, to emulate the spiritual example
of this perfect Christian woman” (20).